The bane of many a violinist, double stops, are, in reality, an opportunity to enjoy harmony and improve one’s overall technique. And the greatest impediment to playing them well is pressure, many fiddlers simply bring too much force to the fingerboard.
You see when I play in double stops I’m continually reminding myself to lighten the hand, breathe, and listen for the ‘blend’ of the pitches. Rather than doubling the pressure on the fingerboard I think of dividing what I was using for single notes between the two.
Don’t get me wrong, however, there must be enough pressure to make a good tone, and the greater the dynamic the more energy it takes to secure the strings under the fingers. Yet the vision I hold is always of doing more with less. If that is my guiding thought my hand will remain pliant, able to make micro-adjustments of pitch, and less susceptible to fatigue.
One of the best ways to practice double stop passages is by sounding only one of the pitches while fingering both. I will do this with the bottom notes, and then with the top. Only when I’m able to ‘sing’ each part while shadow-playing the other do I venture a joint performance. It’s remarkable how much a passage can be improved by this simple practice technique.
Now, Kreutzer devoted the last 12 of his Etudes/Caprices to the fine art of double stop playing, and several of them are absolute gems, musically. And volume 4 of my Kreutzer series is where you can see, and hear, the approach to double stop playing I’ve outlined here brings them to life.